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Jack & Jill (Part Eight)

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Read last week’s entry here.

 

 

Part Eight: Jack Sees Jill

 

            I followed the Fiddler Bothers in their truck for some time until we came to a medium sized house that backed onto a bit of woodland. I couldn’t be sure how far the forest went, but it was far enough that I couldn’t see the next house behind his. The driveway was just a few blocks of poured concrete which looked like it had been poured over a dirt drive way and died into grass before more than three long squares. Cole had actually driven off the concrete drive and onto part of his lawn, where the path continued to the back yard. I stopped the car and got out while the three brothers piled out of the F150.

 

            Cole was on the porch, and the brothers went up it to flank him as they had done on the previous occasion when I had come walking to them on a porch. It was already hot, even though it would be cool weather back home for another two weeks. I had slipped out of my suit coat and take my tie off as we drove. I’d even unbuttoned my shirt and pulled it out of my pants. That left me with the t-shirt Debbie had bought me for my birthday exposed. It had the Hudson Motors logo on it and spoke about how you could get service for your car at the former dealership turned museum in Ypsilanti. Since I drove a Hudson, she had come to the conclusion that I needed as much paraphernalia for the company as possible.

 

            As I walked up, I glanced up at the house and saw a young girl in the window. She was blonde, she looked enough like the picture Piper had given me, I didn’t look long. I glanced back down at the trio as they mounted the steps and acted like I had just been looking at the house for a moment.

 

            “He kept up pretty good.” Joe announced as he mounted the stairs and slapped Cole on the shoulder. “He drives almost like a country boy.”

 

            “We have country roads up north too.” I said shaking my head.

 

            “Yeah, but they’re real country roads around here.” Daryl said and laughed.

 

            I laughed too, just to look friendly. I was becoming their best friend after all, the best buddy any of them ever had. Except Dave, Dave was on to me. I didn’t mind Dave being on to me though. Dave was a reasonable amount of trouble and I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble. Dave was a back woods bad ass, but I’d killed seven professionals with one blow.

 

            “So where do you hide them?” I asked, pointing to my left and starting to walk as a natural place to go around the house. “In the back?”

 

            “Yeah.” Cole jumped off the porch like an old fat bullfrog, but he landed steady and without fuss. “C’mon.”

 

            We walked around the back of the small house, and I counted the windows and marked their position. Most people don’t think about it, but you can pretty easily guess the layout of a house from the outside. There are only about fifty house designs in America, and even those are pretty standard once you look around enough of them. The wonderful thing about American architecture is that it values space over imagination. It would be a lot of big square rooms, stacked next to each other.

 

            When we got to the back of the house I saw how shallow the woods really were, I could see some of the sheds for his back neighbor. I would hate to say that the lie simply fell apart there, but that’s what happened. There was no large barn, no deep woods to hide in, nothing. Why did they bother lying anyway? I was supposed to be their buddy and they weren’t supposed to suspect a thing. It seemed terribly unfair to me that they would try such to keep up such a lame lie.

 

            “Okay guys.” I said putting my hands on my hips. “Tell me what the fuck is really going on.”

 

            “What’d you mean?” Joe asked, trying to look innocent.

 

            I’m pretty sure the look I gave him could stop clocks, it stopped him from grinning like and idiot that was for sure. I looked around the four of them, and if they intended to bum rush me they had their positions all wrong. No one was covering my back, there was too much room on my left flank. There would be space enough to shoot me to pieces without worrying about too much crossfire though.

 

            “I’m here to help you.” I said distinctly. “I’m supposed to help make the shit die down so you can do business.”

 

            “Yeah?” Cole asked.

 

            “Yeah.” I said pointing over my shoulder. “So why try and get me to believe that you hide your workers in a wood that shallow? A four year old could find one illegal from the street in there.”

 

            “Yeah.” Dave said softly. “Simple isn’t it?”

 

            “There is no INS trouble, is there?” I asked.

 

            “No.” Cole said.

 

            “Shall I guess?”

 

            “Go ahead pretty boy.” Dave rasped and folded his arms.

 

            “Why not just tell me instead of starting a new story that will fall apart?” I said.

 

            “Mexicans get out of hand sometimes.” Cole shrugged. “You know how it is. Sometimes they decide they want to get tough and demanding and we’ve gotta teach ‘em whose boss around here. That screws up a day’s production though.”

 

            “Is that all?” I asked, arching my eye brows and choking back my disgust. “Is that what all the secrecy is about? Doing strike breaking?”

 

            “Old man Piper wouldn’t approve.” Dave hissed.

 

            “Old man Piper’s daddy paid old Purple Gang members to break strikes when the unions first moved into Michigan.” I informed him, falling back on my scraps of history friends had told me. “Piper is management, he understands.”

 

            “Yeah?” Cole asked.

 

            “Yeah.” I nodded. “I’ll tell him nice and quiet, and he’ll understand.”

 

            “Maybe we don’t want him knowing about it.” Cole said, putting his hand on something near his back him. “Maybe we want to keep it quiet.”

 

            “If that’s a gun you’re reaching for you’d better throw down.” I said, not reaching for the Marley on my hip. “If it’s your wallet, name a figure.”

 

            “I like that.” Cole’s face broke into a wide smile and he put his hand into his front jeans pocket. He pulled out a thick wad of bills that were folded and barely contained by a rubber band. “I like a man you can reason with.”

 

            “I’m reasonable.” I said smiling at him like I was dumber than a sack of bricks. “I can easily just tell him that the INS is cracking down and shit is going to happen no matter what.”

 

            Cole took the band off the money and started to count out hundred dollar bills. He counted out twenty of them before stopping and then slipped the band back around the bills and stuffed them into his pocket. He folded the hundreds over once and held it out to me. I took a step forward and took the fairly paltry bribe of blood money from him. I slipped it into my pocket and looked at the three brothers, two of which were smiling and one of which was Dave.

 

            “I can give you that every month.” Cole said, sounding proud of himself.

 

            “That’ll do.” I nodded, while inside I was disgusted both at my complicity and my cheap price. I might be a cut rate detective, but I always thought I’d sell out for more than this. “Well, I suppose I should go back to the plantation then. I can pretend to poke around for a few more days and go home.”

           

            “We’ll come back with you.” Dave said, and I must say he looked a little more relaxed now. He looked like he knew what I was now. I was a guy who could be bought off for two grand a month.

 

            I got in my car and started down the road, the Fiddler’s in their F150 followed soon after me. I didn’t know how closely they would be watching, so I declined pulling out my cell phone. I wanted to make a call right there and then, and then I remembered a function my new phone had. I still had my windows rolled up, so I just turned off my radio, put the phone in my lap and turned on the speaker phone. I dialed a number and waited.

 

            “Hello?” The voice of Alice Liddell came up from my crotch, which is something I normally would welcome. It had never happened because Alice and I had never had the chance yet.

 

            “Hi there Alice.” I said checking my mirror. “I’ve got you on speaker phone because I’m in a situation.”

 

            “What kind of situation?” She asked. The Fiddlers were far enough back that I didn’t need to worry too much.

 

            “If the guys in the car behind me know I’m talking on the phone they wouldn’t like it.” I said.

 

            “What’s going on?” She asked.

 

            “How would you like a promotion?” I inquired.

 

            “You can get me promoted?”

 

            “I’m working a kidnapping case.” I told her. “Only I’ve stuck in my thumb and pulled you out a plumb. There are about a hundred illegals at the Piper pepper plantation where they do the pickling. They’ve been mistreated by the sort of scum the INS is supposed to protect them from. I think they’re even killing some of them. I’ve just accepted two grand to keep the whole thing from old man Piper because Cole King and his three assistants the Fiddler Brothers are pulling something on the side. If you take them all in, you get to decide what they’re up to beyond murder and human trafficking.”

 

            “How long have you been there?”

 

            “Oh, about three hours now.”

 

            “Sweet Nancy Reagan.” She said.

 

            “When do you think you could get here with a lot of agents?” I asked.

 

            “A few hours unless I send in the local police.”

 

            “No locals.” I said. “I’ve got an idea they’ve been bought or scared. Piper owns a lot of land and employs a lot of people out here. King’s probably been using that as a lever.”

 

            “Maybe you’re just paranoid.” She said. “You’ve been accused of that before, you might remember.”

 

            “That only counts if you give weight to the word of some trained and educated doctors.” I told her. “And as we both know, the government spurns the work of informed and intelligent experts in favor of well paid shills.”

 

            “Do you have a well paid shill?”

 

            “I have the word of a cheap detective who took two thousand dollars as a bribe to look the other way.”

 

            “Crap, we could go to war on your word.” She said and then sighed with thought. “I couldn’t get there until late tonight.”

 

            “That’s fine.” I told her. “Just give me a buzz when you’re coming.”

 

            “I’d like to give you more than just a buzz.” Her voice changed into something less than professional.

 

            “Ah, but I’m almost to my destination, so I have to stop you there.”

 

            “Damnit.” She muttered.

 

            “Sorry.” I said as I hung up on her.

 

            I hated to do that to her, but there was no way to prevent her from trying to flirt a little more, and that could be disastrous. I glanced in the mirror and found that the Fiddlers were still more or less the distance they had been. Either they didn’t suspect a thing, or they were waiting until I wasn’t in the car before they decided to kill me.

 

 

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February 25, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Jack & Jill (Part Seven)

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Read last week’s entry here.

 

 

Part Seven: Jill Sees Jack

 

            I first saw him after I’d been with Cole for about 2 weeks. I think it was two weeks, I’m not sure actually. I’ve kind of blocked everything about Cole, except when Jack was around. I can remember the first time I saw Jack exactly. It’s been crystallized in my mind, with every detail picked out like an HD camera.

 

            I was watching TV when Cole’s big truck came up the driveway. I turned off the TV and got up, waiting for him to have his way with me again. He’d already told me that if I ran away he’d kill my parents and make me wish I was dead. I suppose that some people would say that I should have run away anyway, but I was so far from home and I was scared of him.

 

            Cole didn’t hit me, didn’t make me undress, he just put me up stairs in my room. He pushed me onto the bed and told me to stay away from the window. He swore at me, told me that he’d kill me if I went to the window, and then slammed the door. I could hear his key clumsily work its way into the slot, proving he worked locks like he fucked. The dead bolt turned and the key was yanked out, then his heavy feet stomped and clomped away from the door and down the stairs.

 

            The curtains weren’t closed though, so I could have a look out the window if I wanted to. The only trick would be to avoid having Cole notice that I was stealing a glance at the outside world despite his admonitions. If I could see out there, I might know what he was worried about and even signal someone to help me. That would have to be done with exquisite care though. If Cole figured it out, he would tear me open from my groin to my neck and hang me upside down to let my guts spill into my face.

 

            I must admit to you though, that I was curious about what could have so worried him that he would run to lock me away and then run back downstairs. My curiosity wouldn’t have been so peeked had he not rushed me in so peremptorily. Because he had, I was desperately curious to see what had caused him to do this.

 

            I heard another truck pull up and then a very odd sounding engine. It wasn’t another truck, but it was a car with a lot of power. I got up from the floor where Cole had so rudely thrown me, skulking carefully towards the window. I saw the blue classic car just as he was getting out of it. I remember him perfectly, down to the last detail. He was wearing a brown suit, of an old fashioned cut and a blue shirt and black tie. He wore a brown fedora as well, which made him look like some sort of romantic hero from a by gone age.

 

            I was encapsulated by him. I knew he was the man who had come to save me. I stepped forward as he looked up at the windows and our eyes locked. It was like making love, not the dirty, filthy way Cole fucked, but a pure and wonderful love. It was lovemaking that needed no connection, no bodies, nothing dirty and unpure. It was love that made me feel a flutter deep inside me. I stepped back, away from the window for fear that my passion might cause me to throw myself through the glass at him.

 

            He looked down as I started to back away, he was probably only looking up at me for an instant, but it seemed to go on for a life time. I felt like I’d never felt before, like I’d been struck by cupid’s own bolt and that my life would never be the same. I’m not sure how, but I knew I was safe then. I knew it like I know my own name. I knew, without a singular doubt, that I would be saved before dawn broke the next day.

           

            I heard them talking from my window, and he was asking about the immigrant workers. What a clever ruse my darling, my love had made to come save me. I knew that he had come for me, but he was pretending to be here for someone else. It was that sort of brilliance that made me love him.

 

            I watched him as he spoke to the four of them, and I noticed that while he was listening he had a habit of tapping his front two teeth with his left thumbnail. That’s the kind of detail you notice about a person when you’re in love with them. He shook his head at something one of them said and started to laugh at one of their jokes. I could see in his eyes, he was already forming a plan to come save me.

 

            They walked around the side of the house, and my love left my sight. I could feel the pain of that leaving like a steel dagger pierced straight into my heart. I didn’t want him to leave my sight, because the panic started that maybe he wasn’t here to save me. Maybe he had come for some other reason. I had to hold myself back to avoid throwing myself through the window. I wanted to hold him, to reassure myself that he was real.

 

            I could feel my longing for him in the pit of my stomach, my toes ached over it. I’m not sure I actually breathed while waiting for them to return with him, I feared they would engage in some treachery which might result in him getting hurt. I can’t imagine I took in air the whole time, my heart may have stopped from the pain and fear.

 

            They were gone for an eternity. They were gone long enough for the stars to burn out, for the black holes to eat the planets, and for the entire thing to explode again. They were gone so long I almost wanted to cry, knowing that they had killed him.

 

            Then they came around from the other side of the house, and I saw him again. I had to step back when I saw the others. I was held by the fear that Cole might see me. I felt such a wave of relief that I sat on the floor and waited for my breath to come back to me. My head was spinning with relief and my knees would no longer hold me up.

 

            I heard a car door slam, an engine start and I knew he was leaving. I wanted to throw myself at the window, to beg him to take me with him now, but I knew that would be unsafe. I knew they’d kill us both if I did anything like that. I had to be smart, had to act like I hadn’t moved from the place where Cole had thrown me down. Had to wait until he came to save me.

 

            When they other car left, Cole came back. I forget what happened, but I’m sure he fucked me again. He always fucked me, whenever he came back he fucked me. I don’t say he raped me, because by then I’d stopped fighting him. I just let him fuck me because it was easier that way. I let him fuck me, and then he went downstairs to watch a game on TV. I lay on the floor for a long time, waiting for the disgust to go away. I hated him, but he was my owner.

 

            Cole had broken me, Cole had burned me with that hot iron brand, Cole owned me. He’d explained that he owned me and I could only be taken from him if someone killed him. Even if we were separated, he would own me forever until someone killed me and then I would be that person’s. I knew though, that Jack would kill him, and Jack would take me and Jack would be a kind owner. I knew that it was crazy, but the world had stopped making sense.

 

            I got up after a while though, and I went to the bathroom. I scrubbed myself good and hard, I cleaned myself for a long time, trying to wash Cole off of me. I wanted to be clean for Jack, I wanted to be pure for him. I didn’t even know his name yet, but I knew I loved him and I knew he would come and save me.

 

            I cleaned and cleaned, and then I found the whitest of the clothes Cole had given me to wear. I put on the plainest, the humblest, of the underwear. I put on white pants and a plain white shirt. I was going to look pure for him, I was going to look as virginal as I could. It would be important to meet the man I would be with forever while looking as pure as possible.

 

            I didn’t sleep, I barely moved, I just sat up and waited for my knight to come rescue me from this tower I had been ensconced into by the evil man called King. I knew that he was coming, I knew that he had come to rescue me, and I knew that he wouldn’t keep me waiting long.

 

February 18, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Jack & Jill (Part Six)

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Read last week’s entry here.

 

Part Six: The Mexicans

 

            “Got ‘em for you.” Cole said, trying to sound more country than country could sound.

           

            “You guys better stay here.” I said walking down the steps from the porch. “They might not want to talk with you there.”

 

            “What the fuck for?” Joe demanded. “You gonna ask them about us?”

           

            “Joe.” Cole’s voice warned.

 

            “What’s he want to go asking about us fer?” Joe started to walk towards me, but Dave grabbed his arm and that seemed to snap him back.

 

            “It’s got nothing to do with us.” Dave said. “He’s here to help us, remember?”

           

            “I don’t like people talking about me.” He said.

 

            “I hadn’t planned on talking about you at all Joe.” I told him. “I only want to ask them a few things about how the INS people talk to them when they raid here.”

 

            “Well, don’t go talking about me!” Joe said.

 

            “He won’t.” Dave said and nodded his head to me.

 

            I turned and heard something that sounded like a hand clap across what sounded like the back of Joe’s head. I went towards the barn they had indicated the workers were waiting by. I walked around the side of the barn and was faced with a group of Mexicans workers. The guys had gotten them together and then left them here to wait. It suddenly occurred to me that making them stay at the house might not be a good idea because I took German in high school and I was crap at it.

 

            “Hi folks.” I looked into the sea of blank faces. “I’m looking for a young girl. She’s white blonde, about fourteen. Anyone here see anyone like that?”

 

            They looked dumbly at me, one or two of them flicked glances at each other. They were worried that if they said something, it might gain attention and attention was a bad thing in their world. Being noticed meant you were scrutinized and legal or not it could mean deportment. They looked at each other, and then blankly at me.

 

            “Don’t play the ‘I no speak English’ game with me.” I growled, not wanting to. “I don’t care about you people. I don’t have to call the INS. And if they ask me I can tell them that I just saw a bunch of good Americans along with some perfectly legal immigrants.”

 

            That got their attention, but I still didn’t have their trust. Pretending like you don’t understand is a tough game, but it’s better if English clearly isn’t your first language. You can always pretend not to understand as much as you really do that way. The problem is that I didn’t have time to screw around with these people.

 

            “Did any of you see the girl?” I took in a deep breath and let it out. “I know you guys don’t want trouble, but if someone doesn’t start telling me something soon I will make trouble and I can make a lot of trouble. I’m good at making trouble. I do it for a living. I am not going to just go away because I can tell by some of your faces that you do understand me and the dumb shit expression is just pissing me off when I’m looking for a little girl who has been kidnapped.”

 

            A few more eyes flicked back and forth, faces moved, there were mutters. They still didn’t say anything to me though. I was going to have to pull out my bastard card and I wasn’t too happy about it. I don’t like threatening people who are already scared and worried. I shook my head, looked down at the ground and back up at them.

 

            “Okay.” I allowed resentment roll into my voice. “By the time they figure out if you guys are legal or not it’ll be way past picking season anyway. Don’t know what you’ll do for money after that.”

 

            I turned around and started, knowing that one of them would say it. I wasn’t sure if I was really going to call INS or not. A threat is only good if you back it up, but none of them had kidnapped Jill Piper.

 

            “Wait.” One of them called out and I turned around trying not to look too smug.

 

            “Yes?” I asked.

 

            “Why are you talking about INS?” The man was young, and his English was too good. He was born with that voice “They never come here, King pays them off.”

 

            “There isn’t any problem with the Feds?” I asked the group.

 

            “No.” The kid said. “The problems these people have isn’t with the feds.”  

 

            “What’s your name?” I asked, and for a moment I wished I smoked so I could casually light a cigarette.

 

            “Tommy Tucker.” He said.

 

            “Not exactly the name for a migrant worker is it?”

 

            “I can work, just like anyone else.” He was defiant and I wondered if he’d start giving me a speech. “We need to stand together, my blood brothers and I. The people can’t be oppressed forever.”

 

            He was off to a good start, but I didn’t care about him and I didn’t have my Socialist Bingo Card. If I let him go on I would have been treated to how working people control production, and opiate of the masses and other such phrases. The problem was that I grew up in the Detroit area, and I’ve heard it all before from better speech writers. I’ve also learned from personal experience that anyone who thinks the proletariat are noble hasn’t spent much time around them.

 

            “Okay.” I said waving him away. Even though technically I didn’t care, I still asked my next question. “Not that I care, but did King get you guys here? Got you guys across the border?”

 

            “Yes.” He nodded. “Then he gets them to work here. Then he refuses to pay them. They get room and board, but it’s pretty shabby. They pay pennies on the dollar when it starts looking like people are going to leave. The beat and I think they’ve killed a few of the workers”

 

            “I see.” I nodded. “The problem is, what I’m after is the little girl.”

 

            “She was here the other day.” Tucker told me. “Then he took her to his house I guess.”

 

            “You don’t know where that is, do you?”

 

            The group started suddenly to disperse and I turned to see that Joe was approaching, his hand on the big pearl handle of his gun. He was fat and ungainly over the rough terrain of the fields. You’d think after this long he’d be better at it, but he wasn’t.

 

            “We got work to do.” He snapped at both me and the laborers. “Can’t stand around jawing all day.”

 

            “No.” I said. “I might find out where the little girl is if I did that.”

 

            “You got something to say to me?” He gave me a little shove, which actually caused him to move more than it did me.

 

            “If you shove me again, I’ll knock you on your ass.” I said flatly.

 

            “You trying to be tough with me?”

 

            “I don’t have to try to be tough. I was born tough.” I said putting one hand on his chest and giving him a healthy shove which sent him stumbling back and then landed him flat on his fanny. “I have to try real hard not to be too tough.”

 

            I reached down and smiled at him though. He looked up at me and took my hand and I helped him up. There would be something of an understanding between us now, unless I was totally wrong and he tried to swing for my head. He didn’t, he just brushed himself off a bit. He knew that he’d gone too far, that he’d pushed just a little too hard, and I think I knew why. Even if I didn’t know about the girl, I was way too close to uncovering their secret.

 

            “Look, I really don’t care if you hire illegals.” I told him. “I’m supposed to find a way to stop the bullshit, I’m not here to stir more of it up. I’m not just a detective, I’m a problem solver. I’m here to stop the problems.”

 

            He nodded, and I could see a hamster running on a wheel that turned other wheels in his head. He nodded slowly, but it was merely because the hamster was running, causing an autonomic reaction. He had a handle on me now, or thought he did. He knew that I was bent, and on the proper side of the ledger. I was one of them, and that made me okay. Also, it helped that he had seen something in my eyes that let him know that I was not to be trifled with. It was probably the Seven With One Blow story again. That one gets around and everyone asks me about it. I knew that his next question would he about that in fact.

 

            “You really pop a guy’s eye out of his head once?” He asked, proving once again I have no idea what I’m talking about.

 

            “Yeah.” I nodded. “Actually I popped it out, then I cut it off and then I threw it in a river. Ask me later about how I put his other eye out by shooting it through the back of his head.”

 

            “Goddamn.” He said with admiration and shook his head. “I mean Goddamn.”

 

            “Where do you take the Mexicans when you hear that a raid is coming?” I asked.

 

            “Up to Cole’s place.” Joe smiled a big smile at me. “How come?”

 

            “Maybe someone up there saw it and has been complaining.” I told him. “Might be that we need to shake somebody down.”

 

            “We can do that.” He said while grinning a wide friendly grin.

 

            We walked back to the house and I listened while Joe explained my little plan to Cole and his brothers. Cole’s face darkened and Daryl’s face twisted with confusion when Joe mentioned going to Cole’s place to have a look around. The problem was that Cole knew refusing to play along now would be too suspicious. There was also the fact that I was here to look around about the INS problem and probably would know nothing about Jill Piper, which was too insane to even be discussed. Even suggesting that I might have been hired weeks ago by the company, the girl took precedence. I was glad that I’d decided to clip the Marley thirty-eight onto the back of my pants.

 

            “Well.” Cole said adjusting his cowboy hat. “I’ll go on up there, you boys can follow me.”

 

            Cole walked quickly towards his truck, a brand new Dodge Durango, the kind that had the word HEMI stamped on the side just incase you wanted know what kind of engine it had. I walked to the Hudson and opened the door. Cole looked at the car from his rolling mountain.

 

            “How fast you go in that?” He asked.

 

            “Pretty fast.” I told him. “I’m not sure if the speedometer works right.”

 

            “What kind of engine it got?”

 

            “Whatever Hudson put in it.” I shrugged, not wanting to admit that I know exactly what kind of engine I have and exactly how fast it can travel when I want it to. “Not all Detroit boys know everything about their cars.”

 

            “Got a HEMI in here.” He reached and slapped the roof of his car. “Pretty damn fast.”

 

            “Probably outrun me by miles.” I said.

 

            “You just follow us.” Joe said climbing into a big Ford F150. “We won’t let you get lost.”

           

            “Sure thing.” I said, looking at the maps that I had to both this place and Cole’s place. Even if they tried to loose me, I wouldn’t get lost.

 

            They didn’t try to loose me though, they kept making sure I was right behind them for the fifteen minute drive, even though Cole must have made it in less than five if he kept up the speed he left with.

 

February 11, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Jack & Jill (Part Five)

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Read last week’s entry here.

 

Part Five: King, Cole & Fiddlers Three

 

            I went back to my office, because one needs the first things first. If I was going to go chasing a possibly kidnapped girl out of state, I was going to carry my weapons with me. I also wanted Debbie to know what was going to be going on for the next couple of days. So to the office I went, ready to face any disapproving glances she might send my way.

 

            “I’ve got to go to Georgia tonight and I’m not sure when I’ll be back.” I said as I came into the office.

 

            “How come?”

 

            I quickly explained the situation with the cell phone and the pepper plantation. She looked unimpressed, but she didn’t glare at me or anything. She nodded and went back to the typing she was doing. I dismissed myself and went into the office heading for the safe.

 

            The safe in my office is big and old fashioned. It’s touchy and difficult to open, but it wouldn’t be for an experienced safe cracker. That’s not the point though, keeping others out isn’t as important as keeping me out. I ran my hand over the smooth, heavy green door of the safe as I started to work the knob. Two tries later I’d actually gotten the combination right and swung the door open. I used to keep a single fire safe in the larger safe, which is were I kept my two guns, but now there was a second fire safe in there. I took both safes and walked to my desk with them.

 

            I got my keys out and opened the older fire safe, which was just big enough for my Marley thirty-eight and the Webley Automatic Revolver along with their holsters. I took them from the safe and closed it, locking it to release my keys from it. I then sat back and looked at the second safe. This was about the same size, but it had a different cargo. I fiddled with my keys as I considered the contents.

 

            I opened the second fire safe and pulled the cloth off the pair of twenty-two caliber automatics. A twenty-two is not a horrible thing, in and of itself, just not very good for killing unless you are practiced with them. These were killing instruments though. The fact that each gun had been modified with a fixed single piece silencer had made it clear what these guns were for. They weren’t legal, not in any way shape or form. It’s not just that suppressors aren’t legal in Michigan, these guns weren’t legal anywhere. The guns had been stolen, they’d been used in at least a few murders, and these two had been taken off a man I’d killed. A State Trooper had given them to me, thinking I might need them when I’d killed the hit man who carried them.

 

            I’d never used them, not once, but I was going into a place I didn’t know and the situation looked murky. These were exactly the kinds of guns I absolutely couldn’t get caught with though, which is why they’d just sat in the safe until now. I did know how not to get caught with the wrong type of gun though, and the materials on these weapons resisted the notion of finger prints for obvious reasons. I picked one of the guns up and checked it, noticing that it was not only loaded but had a round primed should I want to start shooting people right now.

 

            I set the gun down on the desk and thought about it for a moment. I put it back in the fire safe and closed the safe. If I was going to do something with them, I wanted to pack them in a less public place than my office building’s parking lot. If I decided not use them, I could bring them back to the office and no harm done.

 

            I went back to my place and packed up a few things, putting the car in the garage to protect it and my privacy. It was there that I decided what I would do with the silenced pistols. I would pack them, but I would do so in a way that a paranoid person would do it. So I’m paranoid, it’s the only thing that makes me even a little bit smart.

 

            Most people wouldn’t be able to tell this from just looking at the Hudson, but it’s not a stock car. The old man who sold it to Tom Freedom had begun his criminal career running booze for the Purple Gang. When prohibition ended, he came to the conclusion that there was still a need for a fast car filled with illicit booze so he kept it up. The Hudson had more horses than the Grand National and more places to hide things than any car should. If you knew where to look, there were hidden panels in the back of the seats and under the dashboard that were just big enough for a bottle of whisky or a silenced Drexel automatic if that was what you had in mind. I decided on the spot under the dashboard because behind the seats were hard to reach since this car was made before bucket seats were standard.

 

            I packed up the rest of the car and was off within the hour, starting south and heading for Banbury Cross, Georgia. I’d fielded one call from Piper, telling me they would expect me, and another from Debbie asking how long I thought I’d be. I left a little while later, knowing that I would be drawn inexorably back to Michigan again, no matter what. I must be safe outside the state because Michigan wouldn’t let me get killed anywhere else because it wants the pleasure of crushing me itself.

 

            I drove a long way, but somewhere around ten at night I decided to stop and get a room. There was a time when I would have driven the whole way in one go, but I wanted to be daisy fresh when I got there and besides I wasn’t twenty anymore. I didn’t go for anything fancy, just stopped in a holiday inn located some where that looked like a nice enough area that my car wouldn’t get stolen. That worked out well, because the car was unmolested when I came out the next morning.

 

            I drove the rest of the way, following the instructions that Piper had given me. There were fields and fields of peppers, waiting to be picked by the workers who were bent over the fields, working at something. I pulled up to the large house, which was more like a manor than the farm house I’d been expecting, and saw the four of them sitting on the large white porch. One of them, the second from my right, was wearing an old west holster with a big pearl handled revolver sitting in it. The other three didn’t show obvious guns, but they might have had them.

 

            “Howdy.” The fattest of the group said as I got out of the car and started towards them. “You must be the detective.”

 

            “That’s right.” I said, pushing my hat back and looking at the group. “Are you Mister King?”

 

            “You can call me Cole.” Cole said smiling, and I thought I caught a false note in his Texas accent. “These are my boys, the Fiddler brothers.”

 

            “Hi.” The oldest looking one said. “I’m Daryl Fiddler.”

 

            “I suppose this is your brother Daryl and you other brother Daryl right?” I asked.

 

            Daryl Fiddler’s face darkened though I can’t say why. After all he can’t have heard that joke more than ten thousand times in his life, it had plenty of giggle left in it. Cole laughed and slapped Daryl on the back.

 

            “Don’t get mad at him Daryl.” Cole told him. “This is the guy who once popped a guy’s eye out for bothering him.”

 

            “There was a little more to it than that.” I said.

 

            “I’ll bet.” Daryl said.

 

            “I’m Joe.” The one who looked like the middle child and wore the holster said. “This here is Dave.”

 

            “Hi there.” Dave’s voice was soft and rasping.

 

            “So you’re gonna find out why we’re getting raided so much huh?” Cole asked.

 

            “That’s right.” I nodded. “Has anyone come to you guys suggesting that they know how they can make it stop?”

 

            “What’d you mean?” Joe asked.

 

            “I mean, has anyone said that if you pay someone or get out of town or something all the problems will go away?”

 

            “Naw.” Cole said. “Nothing like that, should there be?”

           

            “Maybe.” I said. “Tell you what. Call all your laborers together. Maybe one of them knows something.”

           

            “Sure.” Dave rasped. “We’ll get them together for you.”

 

            “Who are your competitors?” I asked. “Has it been the same INS people every time?”

           

            “He sure do ask a lot of questions.” Joe growled to Cole. “Shouldn’t be asking so many questions.”

 

            “He’s supposed to be asking questions.” Cole turned his head to Joe and the look on his face was enough.

 

            There was something that didn’t need to be said, because Cole had said it a thousand times. Joe clearly wasn’t the smart type, but Dave might have been. I saw the look on Dave’s face, even though Joe couldn’t see it. Dave probably didn’t know I could see his face, or I suspect he wouldn’t have allowed the look to cross his face like that. Cole continued to look at Joe for a few seconds too long, until Joe looked down at his shiny cowboy boots. Cole then looked back at me, trying to smile.

 

            “We got competitors.” Cole nodded at me. “But I can’t think of anyone around here who wants to put us out of business by hassling us.”

 

            “So no one who might want to do anything else?” I asked, putting my hands on my hips. “No vandalism? Nothing like that?”

 

            “Naw.” Cole smiled. “Just the INS been cracking down on us.”

 

            “Shit.” I said looking out at the field where the green plants were starting to grow. “Is the old man just being paranoid?”

 

            “That’s right.” Daryl agreed, and smiled far too wide. He liked the idea, but it hadn’t occurred to him before. “He don’t know about how all the farms have been getting hassled lately. All that bullshit about illegals and stuff.”

 

            “Yeah.” Joe smiled, and Dave looked like the only thing that prevented him from stabbing Joe was that they shared a mother. “He don’t come down here much. Don’t know nothing about what goes on here.”

 

            They were doing this all wrong, and Dave could tell. Cole knew something was wrong, but it was Dave who was really the smart one there. Cole pushed his cowboy hat back, smiled down at me and then looked out at the field. He looked out at it for a long moment and then looked back at me.

           

            “Tell ya what.” He drawled the fakest accent I’d heard him do yet. “Why don’t you unload your car and put your things in the guest room? We can gather up some of the workers, you can maybe talk to them. I suppose you can ask if any of them are actually illegal or anything.”

 

            “Yeah.” Joe smiled way too big again. “Make it look like you really tried to figure out what’s going on and then tell old man Piper that it’s just how things are going right now.”

 

            “Yeah.” I agreed with a nod. “I could probably do that.”

 

            “Dave, you show him the guest room and we’ll get the hands together.”

           

            “Sure.” Dave said.

 

            We went up to a smallish guest room, which had little more beyond a bed and a set of drawers with an old Panasonic TV on top of it. It would be comfortable enough, but a hotel would have been better really. At least at a hotel I would have an actually private room, but the price was right here and it was probably helping that I would be where her phone was last.

 

            “I’ve heard about you.” Dave said as I put my suitcase down on the bed. He didn’t have the hick voice of his brothers, but the sort of sweet drawl that made me want to avoid turning my back on him. There was something dangerous in that voice, something educated and knowing.

 

            “Oh yeah?”

 

            “I heard that you killed seven people in five minutes once.”

 

            “Six.” I said as nonchalantly as I could. “I killed the seventh later. It was all in the same twenty four hour period though.”

 

            “Still.” He raised his eye brows. “An impressive number.”

           

            “I got lucky.” I said. “Catch me out on another night on a lonely road and I might not be so lucky again.”

           

            “Have to see sometime.” He smiled and walked to the window. “They’ve got the workers assembled. You should probably go talk to them so they can get back to work soon.”

 

February 5, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Jack & Jill (Part Four)

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Read last week’s entry here.

 

Part Four: Ding Dong Bell

 

            Going through a computer is nowhere near as easy as they make it seem on TV. I wish I were a detective on TV in fact, it would make things so much easier. When you’re a TV detective, you turn on the computer to find a single file open on the computer and it tells you exactly what you want to know. I would have to actually search through the stupid thing and maybe send it off to a hacker that would charge me a hundred dollars an hour to maybe see if there was anything worth looking for.

 

            At least the first looks through it weren’t a complete bust though. She used the password remembering options on her e-mail program and browser, which meant I could get into those with ease. The problem was that even after reading all her e-mail and going through all her book marks I still had basically nothing. There was a guy named Steve, and another guy named Blaine that were trying to woo her ineffectively, but nothing much more beyond that. Reading her responses told me that they hadn’t gotten very far, and reading their messages told me why. It was so painful I almost wanted to e-mail them and give each of them a half dozen pointers, but that seemed to be a bit rude.

 

            The IM programs didn’t have any record keeping software and trying to get into those places is a hassle that I didn’t have time for. I sighed deeply and hoped that if I called my hacker he might not charge me too far up the ass. That didn’t seem too likely though, since I already get the ‘guy who saved my life once’ discount. I looked at the phone number that John Flynn had given me for Tom Stout. I looked at the number for a while, and then thought that maybe I could save myself a few bucks.

 

            I listened to the sound of Debbie’s keyboard clacking softly out in her chamber, like always. After a too brief period, everything was back to how it had always been. No matter what I tried to do, I ended up behind this desk work these cases. Michigan had its hooks in me, and it wouldn’t let go until I was dead. Struggling was simply going to delay the inevitable. I would be reeled into the boat sooner or later, and then I’d be gutted, skinned, and fried with a little bit of oil.

 

            I picked up the phone and dialed the number I’d been given for Tom Stout. After a few rings, and two pleasant sounding receptionists I was patched into his line. When the phone rang I wondered if he was in, it was close enough to lunch for him to be out for the duration. The phone was picked up and I heard another pleasant voice in my ear.

 

            “Tom Stout.” He said,

 

            “This is Jack Collier.” I explained, always feeling dumb when starting a conversation like that. “I’m looking into the Jill Piper situation and I heard you have a problem that might be connected.”

 

            “Yeah.” Stout said. “You might say a problem.”

 

            “I understand those files were wiped.”

 

            “The files weren’t wiped Mister Collier.” He said. “The hard drives with those files were stolen. We’ve lost the call and text records for about six hundred customers.”

 

            “How can someone do that?”

 

            “That’s something we’re looking into.” He said. “If you’ll come down here though, I think I might know a way to help you some.”

 

            “Okay.” I said. “Where are you?”

 

            He gave me an address in Farmington, and told me approximately the best way to get there. I told him I would be on my way and hung up. I switched off the lap top and stuck it into the bag, leaving it leaning against my desk. I told Debbie where I was going, grabbed my hat and was out the door. I got in the car and drove straight there, missing my destination only once, which is something of a record really. It’s not that finding things in Farmington is that hard, but with the traffic you can miss things if you’re not careful because the numbers are messed up down there and the traffic is heavy. You can see your spot just as it’s too late to get into the correct lane and turn.

 

            I managed though and got into the guest lot for the Ding Dong offices. I noticed a couple of unmarked cars sitting in the lot and parked away from them. I don’t like parking the Hudson near other cars and I really don’t like parking near cops. I suppose it’s my own paranoia, since I have no actual proof that cops would deliberately swing the door so wide so as to bang the side of my car, but I also have never given them a chance.

 

            I walked in to the reception area, which was just normal for a place in Farmington, and went to the round receptionist’s desk. I told her my name and was told to wait a moment while she called him. I stood in the office, while the sun shown in through a skylight. The light failed to fall on me, which wasn’t much of a shame because while that makes a dramatic shadow with my hat brim, I wasn’t wearing my hat at the moment.

 

            “Mister Collier?” A man came from behind the receptionist’s desk and walked towards me with his hand out.

 

            “That’s right.” I said taking his hand.

 

            “Tom Stout.” He smiled and gave my hand a single brisk, business like pump. “Come to my office, that’ll be easier.”

 

            We walked around the wall that divided the reception area from the hall and broke up the area if ever they had to defend this place tactically. I noticed a pair of guys in bad suit jackets and ugly ties talking to a couple of guys who had even worse fashion sense in shirts and ties. We walked past them without either of us giving them a glance. I was proud of Stout on that point. It’s not easy to not look at a cop when he’s questioning someone, but I can manage it when needed. Seeing Stout do it must have meant that he’d already seen them all day today.

 

            We walked to his office and he closed the door and sat behind his desk. It wasn’t a huge office, but it was big enough for what we needed. He tapped at a computer, which caused the screen saver to switch off and display some kind of tool program. He looked at the closed door and then pointed to the chair across from him. I sat down and waited for him to start, which he clearly wanted to do.

 

            “Some one deliberately stole the hard drives that have the Piper’s use history on them.” He started. “There are three hard drives taken and all three were where those files were stored.”

 

            “So how do we find her?” I asked, looking at his desk and noticing a photo with two girls, one about Jill’s age.

 

            “If she still has her cell phone, I can ping the phone.” He said moving his hands towards the computer mouse and selecting a few things on the screen. “When I do, that will tell us more or less where the phone is. It’ll take a little work to define where the phone is exactly, but I can give you a rough estimate right now.”

 

            “Let’s do that then.” I said and watched as he hit a few of the digital buttons on the screen.

 

            A moment later he was given something that he copied and pasted into Google. That gave us a map that he had to zoom out from for us to tell where it was. As he was typing and searching I happened to notice something on his wall. It was a child sized cape from a superman costume, which had a small yellow post it note attached. I leaned in and saw that the note read “Do not tug” and smiled to myself. I approve of such things.

 

            “Georgia.” He said looking at the screen. “Looks like farm land outside of Atlanta.”

 

            “Can you print all that up?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah.” He said and hit a few more buttons. I will not say computers are a mystery to me, but I always envy a man who can make them do exactly what he wants when he wants them to.

 

            A printer started to hum and a moment later a couple of pages came sliding out onto the tray. He grabbed a highlighter pen and began marking up the most relevant places for me before handing them over. I looked at them to make sure there was nothing more I needed, but he’d thought of everything. I would have offered him a job, but there isn’t room in my office for two and besides he’d be the boss within a week.

 

            “Anything else that I can help with?” He asked.

 

            “Nothing occurs to me right now.” I said. “Can you do that ping thing again? Find out if they move around?”

 

            “So long as the phone has power.” He nodded.

 

            “It wouldn’t be asking too much for you to do it every couple of hours while you’re here would it?”

 

            “Nah.” He shook his head. “I can even have the computer do it for me. Give me your e-mail address and I can have it sent right to you.”

 

            “Thanks.” I said and wrote the address down for him. “If they go much out the way, give me a call will you?”

 

            “Sure.” He nodded.

 

            I thanked him and left, my very first real clue in this case in my hot little hands. There was really only one thing to do with information like that, so I did it. I plugged the headset into my cellphone and dialed my client. I still find that an odd phrase, because I haven’t dialed a number on a phone since nineteen eighty-nine.

 

            “Yes?” He answered quickly and sounded like he’d been sitting by the phone all day.

 

            “Her cell phone has been located by the phone company in Georgia.” I said as I started the car. “Some little town outside Atlanta called… hang on.”

 

            “It is Banbury Cross?” As my eyes fell on the words I wondered just how much trouble we all were in.

           

            “Yes.” I said.

 

            “I have a house there.” He told me. “Our main pepper plantation is in Banbury Cross.”

           

            “Who’s in charge down there?”

 

            “A guy named Cole King.” He said, his voice was shaking now. “He runs the plantation, does all the work for me.”

 

            “Maybe I can talk to him.” I said. “Go down there on some pretense.

 

            “I’ll tell him you’re going down there to look into the labor thing.” He spoke quickly now, making sure he got the idea out as it came. “We’ve had INS on us a few times, looking for illegals. I’ll tell him you’re down there to try and figure out why we’re being singled out.”

 

            “Okay.” I said.

 

            “Can you fly down there tonight?”

 

            “I’ll drive down if it’s all the same to you.” I told him. “I might need a gun and it’s just a hassle trying to fly with them these days. I would also rather not have to try and fly back with your daughter if I have to bring her back under duress.”

 

            “Very well.” He stated. “Will you need me to forward you expense money?”

 

            “I can take care of it.” I told him. “I’ll go to my office, get a few things together and will start as soon as I can. They probably can expect me tomorrow I suppose.”

 

            “I’ll call Cole and tell him then. Good day.” Piper hung up rather abruptly, but I didn’t resent him that. I assumed he’d been having a bad couple of days.

 

            It seemed odd that she would be at her father’s place in the south, particularly since I was going on the kidnapping idea. It might have been a run away and she packed things differently than I would have expected. Maybe kids packed different things than I thought. I supposed it could be, I was getting old after all. I thought I remembered the teen years well enough though, I thought I had a handle on it. It didn’t matter though, I would have to get a few things and go south and find her.

 

January 28, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Jack & Jill (Part Three)

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

 

Read last week’s entry here.

 

 

Part Three: Just a Room

 

            I had to drive two hours north on seventy-five and another half hour after that to get to the Piper’s big hunk of land, which sprawled across one of those counties you only think about when you’re driving up north and you try and decide if you’re going to stop before Flint or after Flint. Because you don’t want to actually stop in Flint, that’s for damn sure.

 

            The house was big, ugly and dull. Just a big box that sat on an expanse of land. It had probably just started out as some plans for a house half that size that they got an architect to upscale for them. Getting into the house made me wish that I wasn’t so cynical, because it would be nice not to hear myself say I was right so much. The rooms were big and empty looking, because they had enough money to build big square rooms, but not enough money to hire proper decorators or a sense of style. The place looked like a typical American house that had just spread out and become larger without doing any real work towards presentation.

 

            “Hello Mister Collier.” A small woman, probably from when this was a two room ranch house, said to me as she opened the door. “Mister Piper said to expect you.”

 

            “You would be?” I asked,

 

            “Polly, the cleaner sir.” She shook her head. “Shall I put the kettle on? Would you like some tea?”

 

            “No, I won’t be here long enough for that Polly.” I said.

 

            “Shall I take you to Jill’s room then?” she asked, trying to please.

 

            “Yeah.” I nodded.

 

            Jill Piper’s bed room was a mess, as I feared, but there was an orderliness to the mess. A careful viewer could tell what she thought was most important and what things were to be ignored for another week or two. I saw a small glass unicorn that had been knocked over, but the thin layer of dust that had settled on it and around it told me that it had fallen over some time ago. A less skilled gumshoe might have missed the layer of dust and decided that it had been knocked over by a careless kidnapper. I was a more skilled gumshoe though, and so I decided that I could ignore it.

 

            There was a basket of folded clothes near her bed, a few things had been ransacked but for the most part left alone. The drawers of her dresser were open and bits of clothing hung over the edges. The drawers of her desk were closed and the smaller dresser, where I assumed her undergarments were kept was also closed. I looked at the basket, then at the clothes drawers. That looked wrong. When I was a kid, I would often leave clothes in the basket instead of putting them away. I would rarely put things into the drawers, leaving them half empty most of the time. An adult wouldn’t think like that though. An adult would look in the drawers. An adult in a hurry wouldn’t bother with keeping the drawers neat, expecting that kids are already messy things.

 

            I must give Polly credit for not hovering over me like a hawk the entire time. I looked at the smaller bureau and decided that I wasn’t going to get my answers by being coy about it. I opened the smaller set of drawers and found what I thought I would. An assortment of bras and socks that had been matched and rolled in one drawer, neatly folded panties in the next drawer. I closed the drawer without further examination. I’m not sure I know of anybody who would leave town without their underwear, unless they were compelled by a pretty frightening force.

 

            Her computer was a lap top, which was helpful at least. I looked at the lap top and glanced around the desk, and saw the black nylon bag. I picked up the computer and slipped it into the case, checking that the power cord with its brick half way up the length were in there as well. There was a large yellowish pillar candle on the desk, I picked it up and gave it a sniff to confirm that it was vanilla scented then set it back down.

 

            I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something here, that there was something I wasn’t seeing. I lifted the mattress and found a small leather bound book. Nothing good could come from a book that had been shoved between the mattress and the box spring, but I had to look anyway. It would either be her diary, or a book of things she thought were deep and insightful thoughts.

 

            It was worse than either of those choices. It was a hand written tome of erotic poetry. She wrote poetry. Bad poetry. Bad erotic poetry. Reading through it gave me a perfect insight into how it would feel to watch two teenagers fumbling around in the back seat for the first time. To them it’s quite sexy and adventurous, but to me it was a litany of mistakes.

 

            Her verse structure was a bad imitation, like someone trying to kiss the way they’d seen Hollywood stars kiss in the movies. Her descriptive phrases were as sexy as a boy’s clammy hand reaching for his first undershirt grope in a movie theater. She probably thought it was impressive and she probably thought it was quite sophisticated. I thought I was pretty hot shit when I first put my hand up Suzy Jenkins’s shirt during Batman Returns, and only saw later how dumb that had been.

 

            I closed the book and slipped it into the computer bag. I might need it later and it would be good to say that it had been with the bag I was expected to take anyway. I tried to think of anything else that might be of importance to look at, but I was pretty sure that as a modern kid she would have everything on her cell phone and her computer. I would have to call Ding Dong and get them to give me her text records, and then start to hack through the computer before I’d know anything. I closed the bag and left the room, taking one more turn to look at the mess before I left.

 

            She was just fourteen, not even old enough for a learner’s permit yet. She would have been a high school freshman if her mother had let her go to school. Someone was holding her, somewhere out there. I worried that while I was fucking around in her room, reading her bad poetry, someone was doing unspeakable things to her. I couldn’t help that though, I can only go as fast as I go. If I went faster I might miss things and then she might be killed. I’d gotten a lot of people killed in the past, almost always the person I had told not long before that everything would be alright, that I’d take care of it. I really didn’t want or need another notch on my belt of death.

 

            I walked out of the room, thanked Polly and left the house. When I got into my car I sat for a while. I looked at the house and then at the steering wheel and had another one of those moments I’d had ever since coming back to Michigan. I had one of those moments where I ask myself why exactly it was I decided to come back to this state. I know the answer of course, but we’re not going to go into that right now. I had a reason, let’s leave it at that.

 

            My phone chirped and I picked it up and answered it with my normal routine. Since I was waiting for the call, I wasn’t too surprised by who it turned out to be. Piper had said he’d get him to get in touch with me.

 

            “Mister Collier?” The pleasant voice said. “This is John Flynn at Ding Dong.”

 

            “Oh hello.” I said, leaving the car waiting while I talked. “I suppose Mister Piper told you what I would be needing?”

 

            “Yes.” He agreed, but sounded like something was wrong. “There is a problem though. All the records for the Piper family up until yesterday were wiped from out computers.”

 

            “What, all the texts?” I asked, knowing it would be more than that.

 

            “Everything.” He said. “All the calls for all three phones, all the text messages, all the wireless internet usage. Everything.”

 

            “I see.” I tired not to let my dejected feeling enter my voice, but I may have failed in this endeavor. “I don’t suppose the accounts have been canceled or anything?”

 

            “No, just the records have been wiped clean.”

 

            “Okay.” I said. “Thank you. If I can think of something else I might need, I’ll let you know.”

 

            “I wish there was more I could do to help.” He said. “Jill is like my own daughter.”

 

            “Who is in charge of you IT department?” I asked, deciding that sometimes the CEO is one of the worst people to talk to. “Maybe if I can talk to the IT people I can work out a way to undelete the old records or something.”

 

            “I’m not sure that would help.” Something odd entered his voice there. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him all the sudden. “We’ve got our people working on it as hard as they can.”

 

            “Yes.” I agreed. “But there may be something more that can be done.”

 

            “Very well.” He agreed, but I could help but feel he was doing it to try and make me not think about the tone that was in his voice. “Our IT head is Tom Stout, shall I have him call you?”

 

            “Why don’t you give me the number?” I said. “I’ll have to do a few things before I’ll be ready to call him.”

 

            “I’ll tell him to expect your call.” He said, and then gave me the number.

 

            I thanked him, hung up and started the engine of the Hudson. Something was already starting to sound wrong, something had already gone wronger than it should have. I should have been able to pick up her records in five minutes, even have them e-mailed right to my desk, but they didn’t exist now. They had been removed, which raised the level of complexity quite a bit. This wouldn’t just be an ordinary common garden variety snatch and grab job then. It would be something someone planned and possibly used Jill to help plan. I worried that someone had decided to make her part of her own kidnapping.

 

 

            As I drove long the street, I passed what looked like a birthday party, or possibly a graduation. There were balloons taped to the mail box and a few had fallen to the side of the road. I saw a blue balloon get caught up from the side of the road by the air stream from the car in front of me. It danced through the air, carried on the currents of the road. It zipped around my car and I sort of hoped that I didn’t roll over it with my tire and crush it. When I glanced in my mirror I saw that it was still around, and was caught by another car going the opposite direction. It then spiraled on the dying current of air and settled neatly on the other side of the road.

 

            I wished it well, hoping that its journey was complete and that it had got to where it wanted to go. I hoped it was going to be picked up and tossed back and forth across the road until it was finally smashed under a tire it couldn’t get away from. One of us, between me and the balloon, should get to where we were going without having to be crushed.

 

            I got on the highway and started back to my office, wary of what I would find on the computer when I opened it up and got a good look. I knew that a lot of the time it turned out that these girls were run aways, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t still in danger. It would mean that she could be harder to find though, because she wouldn’t want to be found and might have covered her tracks.

 

 

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Jack & Jill (Part Two)

 

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

Read last week’s entry here.

 

 

Part Two: Jack, Without Pail

 

            I was expecting Peter Piper, because he’d called for an appointment that morning. It was still something of a surprise to see him when he came. Debbie opened the door, which I though meant he had canceled since the time was close at hand. However I’d heard the outer door open, so it might be a package.

 

            “This way please, Mister Piper.” Debbie then said and looked in my direction.

 

            Debbie showed him how to walk through a door by preceding him in. The problem was, he didn’t have her hips and watching him walk I could tell he didn’t have her grace. Most people don’t have Debbie’s grace, because she is both athletic and aware of where men watch. He must have been in a bad way if Debbie had come around the desk and showed him in rather than just buzzing me to let me know he was here.

 

            “Mister Collier?” He asked as they approached, he had brought up some speed and they made it to my desk almost together.

            “That’s right.” I said, standing to show that I know what manners are. “Mister Piper?”

 

            “Yes.” He nodded. “I am Peter Piper.”

 

            “Thank you Debbie.” I said flicking my eyes in her direction. “Why don’t you sit down? The red leather chair is the most comfortable.”

 

            He did, I did. When most people walk into my office, they look anything but light and cheerful. Being a private investigator, I rarely see anyone who has just won the lottery, or been given a major award for the art of cheerfulness. This fellow, however, appeared to be under a strain that would have given even Atlas trouble. He sat for a moment, looking at left front corner of my desk. He bit his lower lip, without showing his teeth and then started to clasp clumps of his pant legs in his hands. I waited, deciding it would be rude to push him.

 

            “My daughter has been kidnapped.” He said finally. “My little Jill.”

 

            “Okay.” I nodded. “Do you have any idea by whom or for what reason?”

 

            “No.” His voice was small and he cleared his throat to start again. “No I don’t. The police don’t even believe that she’s been kidnapped. They think she’s run away.”

 

            “Why do they think that?” I asked, although I could sense that he was building up to a shout.

 

            “Because it’s easier for them that way.” He snarled, and I could tell that I was going to be shouted at soon. “They think because a bag is gone and some clothes that of course she just left with a boy friend or something.”

 

            “Does she have a boyfriend?” I asked.

 

            “Of course not.” He snapped. “A fourteen year old girl doesn’t have boyfriends!”

 

            I kept my thoughts on the idea of fourteen year old girls having boyfriends to my self. Suzy Jenkins certainly had boyfriends, as did many of the girls. However, I think fourteen was longer ago for him than it was for me, so maybe he didn’t remember those days as clearly. Maybe he just didn’t want to think of his little girl being felt up by some guy movie theater, even if it was some guy her own age. Fathers are funny like that I’ve noticed. 

 

            “Where was she taken?” I asked. “I haven’t seen any news paper stories about this.”

 

            “There haven’t been any yet, thank god.” He said. “She was taken from our home,  didn’t I say that? Some of her clothes were taken, a few other things.”

 

            “Do you have her computer? Maybe her cellphone?”

 

            “Why the hell do you need that?” He snapped again. “What are those good for?”

 

            “Calm down Mister Piper.” I said, trying to be reassuring.

 

            “Don’t tell me to calm down!” He shouted and stood up. “Why the hell does everyone tell me to calm down? My little girl is out there!”

 

            “I’m trying to help you here.” I said, speaking calmly but firmly. “Shouting won’t help your little girl. She can’t hear you. She doesn’t know how much effort you’re putting forth. It’s wasted energy. Now please sit down.”

 

            I snapped the last word at him, and that was almost as good as a slap. People do not talk to multi-millionaires like I was talking to him. They usually are supplicant and go a long way towards trying to make friends. I’m not intimidated by wealth though, it’s hard to be intimidated by a mere millionaire when you know damn well you’ve fathered a girl who will be a billionaire when she reaches the age of majority. Money isn’t going to do much to intimidate me. Since I was talking to him like someone who wasn’t intimidated by either his money or his power, he shut right up. That is one of the nice things about guys who came to their money honestly, they know that when someone isn’t impressed by them, that they need to listen.

 

            “I’m sorry.” He sat down and had the good graces to look chastened. “Her cellphone was one of the things they took. Why would you need her computer?”

 

            “She may have been talking to someone on-line.” I said, trying to form the sentences to make her sound as blameless as possible. “A lot of teenage girls do that these days you know. Someone tells them how mature they write, and then asks for a picture and tells them how pretty they look. It’s rarer that those things lead to kidnapping than the media makes it sound, but it does really happen. If we can get her computer I know someone who can check her chat and e-mail records. If you pay her cellphone bill we can get a record of her text messages from the company. Even if she was ignoring someone who was stalking her, we can find out if someone was sending her messages.”

 

            I could see that I was getting through to him, because I saw him nodding.

 

            “I’ll make a few phone calls.” He said. “I’ll make sure you get whatever you need.”

 

            “I may need to speak to some of her friends.” I told him. “Can you help me arrange that?”

 

            “She doesn’t have many friends.”

 

            “Maybe someone from school?”

 

            “Her mother insists on home schooling.” He made a face when he said that, I could tell he did not approve of that one little bit. “Two private tutors come. One in the morning one in the afternoon. The police have spoken to them, just to make believe they were taking this seriously.”

 

            “I’ll probably need to talk to them as well.” I then considered that if I could really find her she might not want to be found. “I need to ask you something, and you’re not going to like hearing it.”

 

            “Okay.” He nodded.

 

            “If she did run away.”

 

            “She didn’t.”

 

            “Okay,” I nodded, not arguing. “But if she did, is she to come back without question?”

 

            “Yes, of course!” He yelled. “What kind of question is that?”

 

            “It’s the sort of question that I need answered.” I told him. “If I find her in San Francisco living like a hippy, I need to know if I just make her call you or do I wrap her up and bring her home no matter what.”

 

             It was the first time he’d considered the question, which was a bad sign. He’d never even let the idea that his perfect little girl would run away enter his head. Now that it had, he was having to consider the whys of that question pretty quickly. He nodded though and looked up at me with resignation on his face.

 

            “Bring her home.” He said. “Whatever the cost. If she ran away, it would be because she didn’t want to be kept at the house all the time. If she ran away, we can discuss her going to a local school or a private boarding school or something like that so she can have some friends and some freedom.”

 

            “Okay then.” I nodded. “I’ll probably need to ask your wife a few questions too.”

 

            “She’s in Paris.” He almost spat that out at me. “She won’t even come home for our baby’s disappearance. She thinks selling jars of peppers to the French is more important.”

 

            “My usual rate is two hundred and fifty dollars a day plus expenses.” I told him.

 

            “Fine.” He nodded and took out a check book. He wrote a check, tore it off and placed the check on the end of my desk. “I’ll give you a retainer for a thousand. The cellphone is with Ding Dong Bell, the CEO Johnny Flynn is an old friend of mine.”

 

             “I can come to your place and pick up the computer tonight.” I said. “I’ll want to look around her room anyway. Is it how it was left?”

 

            “Yes.” He nodded. “I haven’t let anyone clean it up yet.”

 

            “Good.” I said. “Don’t until I get there. If someone else grabbed her things to make it look like she left they may have been less careful with her things than she was.”

 

            “Her room is a mess though.” He stated.

 

            “But the mess might look different to an experienced eye.” I told him, which is a load of crap. A mess is a mess, but I thought he could use the reassurance that he’d bought quality goods at a bargain basement price.

 

 

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Jack & Jill (Part One)

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

If you want to see the past, you can read In The Cabinet Here

 

 

 

Part One: Meet Jill

 

            My shrink smokes. He doesn’t do it in the office, you can’t smoke in offices. My dad tells me that you used to, but that it more or less became verboten right before I was born. That was his word, verboten. I wouldn’t use a word like that, I have standards.

 

            I can smell it on him though, while it pervades every sense of his being, until all I can think of when I think of him is the smell of tobacco, it’s oddly not that bad with him. It’s a strangely comforting smell, the smell of a man who you know had to go out into the parking lot and smoke a cigarette in his mercades before he could see you. It’s nice to know that he’s got flaws to, I think that prevents me from thinking he’s judging me.

 

            “Well.” He said, smiling his yellowed tooth smile at me. “How would you like to start?”

 

            “I don’t know.” I shook my head, my hair falling into my face again.

 

            “Would you like to talk about the kidnapping? The detective?”

 

            “Jack.” I said, hating to hear him called by a title. “His name is Jack. I don’t like anyone thinking of him as the detective. It makes him sound slimy.”

 

            What I wanted to say it that it makes him sound like he was some kind of low thug, a piece of muscle that was just doing it for the money. I wanted to tell him that he was like a knight, but not some white shinning armor type like Galahad or Lancelot. He was like a real knight, with blood on his tunic and dents in his armor. You would never see him wearing velvet robes or marching with the Order of the Garter, because he would be too busy fighting evil and saving maidens. He’s like one of the real knights of old, someone Geoffrey of Monmouth would write about.

 

            You can’t say things like that though, because it sounds stupid. That’s what he said anyway. Jack told me that it’s one thing to write poetry, because sometimes you need to get things out, but showing it off and reading it just sounds dumb. I was sort of offended by that, but then he also told me that it lets people know where they can get at you because poetry is all feeling. That’s one of the things that made me fall in love with him, that he understands poetry, but that he thinks it makes you too vulnerable to attack to share. Something in life hurt him, something made him paranoid and I wish I knew what it was.

 

            “Okay.” The shrink said, bringing me back to my narrative. “Jack then. Do you want to talk about him?”

 

            “Not right now.” I said, shaking my head and then pushing the bangs out of my face again because every time I shake they fall down. It’s annoying, but I don’t like how my bangs look trimmed.

 

            I have to keep coming to my shrink, and I have to talk about the events I’m going to tell you about. Dad said that I don’t have to keep coming here, now that everything is taken care of, but I think it might help. I need help processing how I feel, and I need to deal with it. Jack would say I need to deal with it, so that I can leave it behind and never touch it again.

 

            See, I was kidnapped and raped. I went through what I’ve been told is Stockholm’s Syndrome and fell in love with the man that had kidnapped and raped me. Then I was rescued by the finest example of humanity I’ve ever met, an then he was shot and he’s probably going to die in that hospital bed he’s hooked up to now.

 

            “Would you like to talk about something unconnected to that for a moment?” He asked.

 

            “I just don’t want to talk about Jack right now.” I told him.

 

            Since he’s famous and I know you’re wondering, Jack Collier didn’t kidnap me, he didn’t hurt me, he saved me. I fell in love with Jack too, but it’s a pure love. It’s not some farcical sort of fluids pumping through parts of my body, or passionate embraces in the back seat of his car, it’s better than that. It’s the sort of love that in better days would lead to a girl stitching banners for her love. I would weave him banners if I knew how to sew, but I think he needs something else right now. What he needs is to get better, but I don’t know how to make him better.

 

            If this were a tale of old chivalry, my tears on his wounds would be enough, or a kiss from my lips upon his own full mouth. He wouldn’t allow that though, he would never allow it. He’s too good, too noble, too pure for this very ugly and sullied world and too pure for me. So I keep coming here, to try and work out how I can help him by helping myself. I can either try to re-purify myself for him, or I can help bury him if he doesn’t make it.

 

            That’s part of why I have to write this, so that people will understand what happened to him if he doesn’t make it out of this alive. People have to know why things have transpired to reach these ends, or they won’t understand why I love him.

 

            “Should we talk about Mister King then?” He asked, but I was staring off into the distance foe a moment. “Jill?”

 

            “Yes.” I nodded. “We can talk about Cole for a bit.”

 

            “How did you meet him then?”

 

            “Daddy.” I told him, which is true but perhaps you don’t know how true really.

 

            That, I suppose, is why we’re here, aren’t we? You want to know about Cole King and how he ended up where he did. My creative writing teacher in high school would call this an interesting introduction, saying that it sets up a hint at the conclusion that makes the reader want to know more. He was always saying things like that though, so I’m not sure how much we should take stock in his pronouncements. Still, it’s important to start somewhere and I wouldn’t want you reading this story thinking that I don’t end up okay by the end. I would hate to have you thinking that I don’t get out, because I do and it’s the most wonderful man in the world who saves me.

 

            “You’re father worked with Mister King, is that right?”

 

            “They sort of worked together.” I told him, leaning my head back against the cushion. “Daddy was using Cole to help with the other side of his business. You know what I mean?”

 

            “You mean with the things that your father was accused of?” He asked, trying to be so polite about it.

 

            “Yes.” I tried not to roll my eyes. “Cole was bringing the workers for him. Daddy hired Cole to help with getting those Mexicans to the farms. We didn’t know how Cole was getting them.”

 

            “When did you first meet him?” He asked, leaning back, hoping I would start to tell a story.

 

            So why shouldn’t I tell a story?  That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? So I can tell the story? I need to tell you this, because if Jack doesn’t pull through, then he can’t tell you himself. So I’ll start with Cole, I’ll start with how I met Cole and how daddy brought him into our house.

 

            Cole King was a big fat Texan, only he wasn’t really from Texas at all. Someone told me that he really came from Minnesota or someplace like that. He was the sort of guy who moves to Texas and then buys a big hat and cowboy boots and wears a six shooter in a holster on his hip. He even spoke in a fake hick accent, but that didn’t bother me so much at first because he mostly talked to daddy when he was brought to the house.

 

            I thought at first he liked to see daddy at the house because we live on this big estate of land. We’ve got deer out there, foxes and skunks and lots of rabbits and things. Cole and Daddy went hunting and shooting out there all the time. I suppose some day I’ll figure out why men like to shoot guns, but it’s a mystery to me as things currently stand.

 

            Daddy liked to have Cole around because he was a big fat jolly sort of guy. You know, he was always laughing and joking and being really witty only not. How can anyone deal with a man who thinks that the best joke in the world is to have someone pull their finger while they fart? If you want to expand you repertoire of dirty jokes, you just have to stand around Cole for a while. The problem is they weren’t even funny. They were just like an excuse to say bad words. It was kind of sad really, that this guy who was only a few years younger than my father liked telling these stupid jokes and my father always laughed as if he’d never heard them before in his life despite the fact that he only has about six of them. I’ve heard the one about the nymphomaniac hermaphrodite so many times I could tell it in me sleep. However, I have standards that rise above jokes that have a punch line like “So the doctor said ‘I guess you’d better go fuck yourself’” thank you very much.

 

            Daddy never thought Cole even looked in my direction, but I could always feel him watching whenever he was around. I always felt like changing my clothes if he was around, no matter what I was wearing I wanted to put on a burkha if he was coming over. It always made me feel kind of sick, that he was looking at me like that. And when he’d compliment me, and tell me how pretty he thought I looked, it just made me want to go hide in the woods. I don’t know how Daddy missed it, but Mom didn’t. Mom didn’t like him, and Mom thought that Daddy should just get rid of him.

 

            The problem was Mom was in Paris when Cole came over that day on his own. I should have run, I should have hid in the woods, but I didn’t. I just stood there and let him grab me, I didn’t even really struggle when he tied me up and put my in his car. I was too scared to struggle, I was terrified in fact. It doesn’t make sense to say that I thought he would kill me, because I should have run if I thought that. I guess I thought he would hurt me really bad before he killed me if I tried to run.

 

            He threw me into the back of his Hummer, and then went back into the house. I waited, just trembling in the back seat, wondering what he was doing. When he came out, he had something in his hands that he threw over my head into the back of the truck. Then he put a pillow case over my head and tied it around my neck so I couldn’t peak at anything. Then he got into the front and started driving.

 

            He never said a word to me, not for the entire trip. He just grabbed me, wrapped me up and took off. It’s probably taken me longer to tell you about it than it took for him to do it.     

 

 

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment